Civil War Family Photos Reveal Wartime Stories of Love and Loss: New Book Helps You Read the Photo Clues

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As Ken Burns demonstrated in his award-winning PBS documentary The Civil War, photographs help us understand the history of our country.

From the first shots at Fort Sumter in April of 1861 to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865, photographers documented wartime scenes and took family portraits. 150 years later in, Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album (Picture Perfect Press, 2011) author Maureen Taylor uses Civil War era images and illustrations to show how the details present in these photographs uncover family history.

“Photography was still a fairly new medium when the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter. That shot not only began the war, it gave a boost to the photo industry,” Taylor explains in her introduction. “The war created an incredible demand for images of loved ones. It was common practice to sit for a portrait to leave as a remembrance.”

Taylor explains how the small details such as the shape of a blouse, style of hat, or even stamp on the back of a picture can serve as a tip to search for more information about ancestral involvement in the Civil War. She selected more than 100 pictures to feature in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album as examples of how to add up the clues in a mid-nineteenth century photo.

By studying a photographer’s business information, a budding genealogist can narrow a photograph down to a specific time period and location while the insignia on a soldier’s uniform can identify their regiment. Taylor’s tips for “reading” the clues of clothing, uniforms, and stamps will help you discover when those pictures were taken and lead you to new family history discoveries.

In Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album, you’ll find fascinating facts about life during the mid-nineteenth century. For example:

  •     For 15 cents apiece, a customer could purchase card photographs of battlefields or famous generals.
  •     Photo albums first became available during the war and cost from 75 cents to $6. 50.
  •     The Italian hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi inspired a new fashion trend for women—shirts.
  •     Flannel fabric was worn during both summer and winter for its healthful properties.
  •     Mourning colors included black, deep purple and even lavender—depending on the period of mourning and the relationship to the deceased.

Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album by Maureen Taylor can now be purchased at for $24.95.

About Maureen Taylor
Maureen Taylor is an internationally known photo identification expert. She combines her expertise in genealogy, history, and costume to solve family picture mysteries. Taylor has been recognized in The Wall Street Journal, NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s The View, and NPR. Taylor is the author of a number of books and magazine articles including The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press) and Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 (Picture Perfect Press).

Watch her videos at and on Vimeo Follow the PhotoDetective on Twitter and Facebook.

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